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Sudan confirms moving ahead with Israel accord, despite growing opposition

Khartoum says it will discuss trade, migration deals with Jewish state; US and Israel will help country ‘consolidate its democracy, enhance food security and fight terrorism’

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok at a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan, August 21, 2019. (AP Photo, File)
Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok at a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan, August 21, 2019. (AP Photo, File)

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Sudanese and Israeli officials will meet in the coming weeks to discuss a package of cooperation deals to “achieve the mutual interests of the two peoples,” Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

The ministry statement came three days after US President Donald Trump announced that Sudan would start normalizing ties with Israel. The statement said the deals would cover agriculture, trade, aviation and migration, but did not provide details on the timing or location of the meetings.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Sunday that Israel was “sending $5 million worth of wheat immediately to our new friends” in Sudan.

The normalization deal came with another pledge by Trump to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The US has linked de-listing Sudan to the deal to normalize ties with the Jewish state.

Both deals would open the door for Sudan to get international loans and aid. Sudan needs these to revive its battered economy and rescue its transition to democracy, following a popular uprising last year that led the military to overthrow longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Sudan’s ex-president Omar al-Bashir appears in court in the capital Khartoum to face charges of illegal acquisition and use of foreign funds, August 31, 2019. (Ebrahim Hamid/AFP)

Sudan’s economy has suffered from decades of US sanctions and mismanagement under al-Bashir. The transitional government has been struggling with a huge budget deficit and widespread shortages of essential goods, including fuel, bread and medicine. Annual inflation soared past 200 percent last month, as prices of bread and other staples surged, according to official figures.

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that the US would also work with its international partners to relieve the country’s foreign debt, which exceeds $60 billion. Both the US and Israel would also help Sudan “consolidate its democracy, enhance food security… and fight terrorism,” it said.

Sudan has agreed to designate Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement as a terrorist organization, something that Israel has long sought from its neighbors and others in the international community, a senior US official said last week.

Hezbollah condemned Sudan’s deal with Israel in a statement Sunday, saying it was made “in return for a miserly and insignificant price,” and would lead to the downfall of the transitional government.

Former Sudanese Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Umma political party, speaks during a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan, February 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

Sudan military-civilian government 11-member body — called the Sovereign Council — is to rule Sudan for a little over three years, until promised elections can be held, as soon as 2022. However, some factions within the political alliance supporting the government have voiced their opposition to normalization with Israel, including Sudan’s former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, who heads the country’s largest political party.

Siddig Tower, a member of the 11-member sovereign council that rules Sudan, criticized normalization with Israel in comments aired by Qatar’s Al-Jazeera satellite news channel Sunday.

Tower said Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the sovereign council, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok took the decision to normalize “without consultations within the sovereign council or the Cabinet.”

Sudan is the third Arab state to normalize ties with Israel this year as part of US-brokered deals, following the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

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